WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – After the Salt Lake County District Attorney ruled the shooting of Danielle Willard was not justified, Willard’s mother feels vindicated while lawyers for the officers involved said they are concerned about what the decision means for police.
While Willard’s mother, Melissa Kennedy, is not granting interviews, she did release a statement through her attorney, Mark Geragos.
The statement reads: “On behalf of Danielle's family we appreciate District Attorney Sim Gill's investigative findings that Danielle's killing was not justified. The findings confirm what we have always known, Danielle was murdered. Thank you."
Attorneys for Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon said there is no evidence Willard was executed by the officers. The attorneys said they believe the DA’s office showed a selective and limited analysis of what took place on November 2, 2012.
Attorney Lindsey Jarvis said evidence shows that Cowley was behind Willard’s vehicle in the split-second moment when Willard hit the gas, and Jarvis said that’s when Cowley pulled out his gun and opened fire.
"She slams on the gas, causing the screeching tires, which Sim Gill says didn't happen, witnesses will tell you otherwise,” Jarvis said.
Brett Rawson, who is the general counsel for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, said he fears the future implications of the DA’s ruling on the incident.
"I'm very disappointed,” Rawson said. “This shooting should've been found to be justified. This sends a very, frankly, scary message to police officers who find themselves in similar circumstances. It causes hesitation, this policy from the DA's office, hesitation in the minds of cops is going to get a cop killed."
Rawson said he believes the DA made a mistake.
"There are principles of science the DA has ignored in making his decision," he said.
Attorneys for the detectives said they believe the DA’s decision was influenced by a desire to appease an outraged public. Gill said that was not the case and that he made his decision based on where the evidence lead him. He said in a press conference Thursday that the mistakes made by two West Valley City officers does not reflect on the department as a whole.
The District Attorney’s Office will still need to decide if criminal charges will be brought against the two detectives. Attorneys for the detectives said they don't believe there is enough evidence to take it that far, but they said it is something they are concerned about.